Sparking ASU startups

Arizona State University startups have the opportunity to participate in a competition that helps prepare them for the transition to the marketplace.

Skysong Innovations, a proxy of Arizona State University (ASU), supports entrepreneurial innovation with venture capital in mind.

Last year, it held its inaugural competition for ASU startups in which participants applied and met certain criteria before the final nine startups were judged.

Skysong Innovations hoped to use the competition “as a way to stimulate more interest among faculty for potentially launching a new company, their discovery, or their invention,” Charlie Lewis, Skysong Innovations senior vice president of venture development, said.

He explained that while innovation is a key factor, startup companies are more likely to achieve success when they have experience growing a business or have a strong business plan.

“This competition is another way that we seek to drive and accelerate that pace and transfer from the university labs to the marketplace,” Lewis said.

Supporting startups as they transition from research and development into the marketplace can create more opportunities for Arizona.

“Beyond the transfer of the discoveries out into the marketplace we also place a premium on the role of play in regional economic development,” Lewis said. “These companies that we’re talking about here, that get launched out of the university, we try our best to keep these companies in Arizona as job creators and contributors to our local economies.”

The competition was launched in FY 2017-2018 and the grand prize winner, Vantronics, was announced in December 2018.

Vantronics is a personalized diagnostic that monitors the pH level of the user’s stomach noninvasively. The user swallows a capsule allowing a device to connect with the detector.

“The reason that is important is because the people who have acid reflux and other acid-related disease states, or afflictions with it, that pH is the closest correlator acid to the stomach,” Lewis explained.

The criteria for the competition and the recognition from participation is geared to help the participants gain venture capital opportunities.

“When you take someone like that and you pair them up with a promising technology, it has a much higher likelihood of getting funding because investors put as much, if not more, on the leadership than they do the technology itself,” Lewis explained.

The 2019 contest is currently open and the deadline to apply is June 30, 2019. Skysong Innovations has received inquiries for the second annual competition and is in the process of doing license agreements for participants.

“We’re anticipating a higher response than last year, the inaugural year, just based on the fact that there’s a specific example, we can reference the winners, they can see that it’s real and what the outcomes were and what capital was available,” Lewis said.

Sierra Ciaramella

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